Drink to the beat
Where would writing be without alcohol? A festival toasts the notorious duo-and Jack Kerouac.
“Have some more wine, Smith, you’re not making any sense,” spouts Japhy Ryder, a character in Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums, during one of the book’s many drunken late-night rap sessions. Save for the light irony, it’s not really a notable line, even to the staunchest of Kerouac enthusiasts. But to Sean Benjamin and Steve Mosqueda, cofounders of www.drinkingandwriting.com, the comment is as loaded as a frat boy.
Influenced by writers notoriously prone to drink—such as Kerouac, John Cheever and Charles Bukowski—the two Chicagoans have spent the last four years, as their website puts it, “exploring the connection between creativity and alcohol.”
In 2002, Benjamin and Mosqueda, members of local fringe theater company the Neo-Futurists, put on a play entitled Drinking & Writing. Staged inside a bar, the gist of the production was simple: Actors entertain audiences by telling anecdotes, reading passages and drinking, all with the show’s connect-the-dots title as an umbrella.
Soon enough, they had their own radio show on WLUW (88.7 FM), The Drinking & Writing Brewery, which features a different writer, brew and bar each episode. And currently, their third iteration of the play, To Cure a Hangover, is running at Hopleaf Bar in Andersonville.
On Saturday 10, Hopleaf will host The Drinking and Writing Festival: Write Til You Puke, a night for discussing Kerouac’s work, an impromptu writing contest (last year’s winners won their weight in beer courtesy of Goose Island) and getting sloshed with like-minded folks.
“For the first festival, we covered drinkers and writers in general, and we kinda decided that maybe we’d focus on a writer or a period or style,” Benjamin (pictured) says. “Jack Kerouac is one of my favorite writers…[and] he’s obviously a big drinker and writer.”
Leading the discussion on the shy-rebel-turned-icon will be Bill “Beat” Savage, an English professor at Northwestern University. “It’s funny,” Benjamin says. “[Savage] teaches at Northwestern, but he also bartends one night a week, so he still has that world with him.” Fittingly, three beers homebrewed by Benjamin and his friends—each inspired by Kerouac’s On the Road, The Dharma Bums and Desolation Angels—will be served.
The festival will also honor retired Chicago Tribune sports writer Bill Jauss. “We didn’t even know he was a drinker,” Benjamin says. “But he started telling us stories about how they used to drink to stay warm during the Bears game.”
In a time when memoirs by porn stars outsell Don DeLillo’s latest, we could all use a drink.
The Drinking & Writing Festival: Write Til You Puke is Saturday 10 at Hopleaf Bar (5148 N Clark St, 773-334-9851).